A Populist Feminism? Reflections from Argentina

As part of her visit to Finland from Argentina to Helsinki, our colleague Mercedes Barros will deliver the Christina Seminar lecture or SKY Talk on 5 December. This is organized by the SKY Doctoral School in Gender Studies. All are very welcome to join the talk and discuss the connections between feminism and populism.


In this presentation, I propose to address the problematic link between feminism and populism. Given the rise of both phenomena on the global socio-political scene, it is timely to problematize their association as well as the (un)desired effects of their coexistence. Much has been written about the incompatibility of populist politics with feminist advances. Indeed, it is very common to find studies from different geographical contexts explaining how populist regimes and leaderships represent a step backward in gender claims, and how gender has come to play a central role in drawing the political boundaries of authoritarian scenarios and the polarisation of contemporary populisms. Contrary to these popular views, however, populism has also been associated with the advance of feminist demands, and theorizing has begun to explore the possibilities of a 'populist and plebeian feminism'.  The central aim of this paper is to show how, in the face of this disagreement, it is crucial, on the one hand, to begin to take into account the situated character that should be privileged in the analysis of the relationship between feminism and populism, and, on the other hand, to make the idea of populism more complex in order to identify its differences with other forms of political practice (authoritarian, democratic or fascist). It is interesting to show that if populism can be conceived as a particular logic of articulation of political discourse, rather than as a homogeneous regime with a left-right orientation or with liberal or illiberal characteristics, it can also be conceived as one way - among others - of doing feminist politics and constructing the feminist people.


Mercedes Barros holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Buenos Aires and a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Ideology and Discourse Analysis from the University of Essex, UK. She was a Chevening Awards Fellow, a Leche Trust Fellow, and Fundación Estenssoro Fellow. She is currently a researcher at the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (National Council for Scientific and Technical Research). She teaches at undergraduate and postgraduate levels at the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, the Universidad de Buenos Aires, and the Universidad Nacional de Río Negro. She has been invited to give courses and seminars at the University of Essex (UK), the Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia San Juan Bosco, the Universidad Católica de Córdoba, the Universidad Nacional de La Rioja, and the Universidad Nacional de Chaco. Throughout her career as a researcher, she has directed several projects funded by agencies of the Argentinean scientific-technological system. Since 2020 she co-directs the research project "Populismo, democracia y estado de derecho: un estudio sobre las reconfiguraciones de los derechos en las experiencias políticas en Argentina" and since 2021, the project "Reconfiguraciones y nuevas emergencias memoriales sobre el pasado reciente: disputas, narrativas, actores y políticas durante los años del ascenso de la derecha en Argentina (2008 -2019)". Her current line of research focuses on the study of the specific ways in which the language of rights is articulated in political discourse. Her most recent publications include the book Discourse and Human Rights Movement in Argentina (2012); and the co-edited volume Ideología, Estado, Universidad. Pensamiento Crítico desde el Sur, (2019) and Métodos. Aproximaciones a un campo problemático (2017) and several articles in national and international scientific journals.


Where and when?

The Christina Research Seminar is an open advanced seminar focused on interdisciplinary gender studies chaired by Professor Tuija Pulkkinen. The seminar is organized as part of the doctoral programme of Gender, Culture, and Society (SKY) by Gender Studies, University of Helsinki. The seminar is open to everyone wishing to attend. 

Location: University of Helsinki Main Building, Fabianinkatu 30, F3010 

Time: December 5th, 16.00-18.00.